13 Reasons Why’s Tommy Dorfman Gets Honest About How The Netflix Show Affected Her Transition

Tommy Dorfman getting ready for Balmain fashion show 2021 for Vogue France
(Image credit: Vogue France/YouTube)

After rising to prominence as Ryan Shaver in Netflix’s hit series 13 Reasons Why, Tommy Dorfman came out as a trans woman last summer. As the actress continues to remain authentic about her identity and her journey thus far, Dorfman spoke to how starring in 13 Reasons Why actually affected her transition. 

When Tommy Dorfman was recently a guest on the podcast Broad Ideas With Rachel Bilson, she spoke to still feeling “so grateful” she booked 13 Reasons Why as her first acting job before additionally appearing in shows like Insatiable, Love, Victor, RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars and most recently in Lena Dunham’s new movie, Sharp Stick. At the same time, Dorfman also got honest with these words: 

I think if I hadn’t booked that job I would have started transitioning a lot sooner. I think because of my work being so tied to my body and face and identify, or whatever [character] I identified as, it delayed some of my growth and some of my maturation in my 20s. I made decisions that were just not aligned with how I really was or what I wanted — but out of fear.

As Dorfman shared on the podcast hosted by The OC’s Rachel Bilson, she didn’t feel like it was the right time to transition while starring in the show out of “fear.” Because her character was male and so much of her work was tied to how Ryan Shaver looked, along with how she was depicted overall to Hollywood, there was some fear about how it would affect her career. 

Tommy Dorfman called being in the streaming series, which faced a number of controversies over the years, a time in her life when she felt somewhat “stuck in time” because so much of her focus was on being part of the series. However, once the show ended, Dorfman could finally move on and do new things like the rest of the 13 Reasons Why cast. Her transition brought some feelings of self acceptance she’d never felt before. In her words: 

I always felt like I wasn’t meant for the world I was living in. You know how people are like, ‘I should have been born in the ’80s’ or something?’ I always had that feeling. And then when I started transitioning I was like, oh no no no, I am totally meant for this body and meant for this time and meant for this world. I was just wearing a sweater that was three sizes too small — for 28 years.

Tommy Dorfman’s story about her journey into womanhood is one of joy to see the actress feeling happy in her own skin after years of feeling out of place. Dorfman has been open prior about suffering from depression, recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction and just being “fucking unhappy” to InStyle last year prior to the changes she made to express the gender identity more true to herself. 

Trans actor Elliot Page came out months prior to Tommy Dorfman with The Umbrella Academy series still in full swing. In the case of Page, the Netflix series worked his character’s transition into the series along with receiving a ton of support from his cast, serving as a major stride for trans actors. You can watch all seasons of 13 Reasons Why and the new Umbrella Academy season with a Netflix subscription

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.